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A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services (2010)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2010. A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22943.
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Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

The primary objective of this research effort is the development of a practical guide that pub- lic transportation providers can use to consider the merits of flexible public transportation ser- vices. Prior to this research, flexible public transportation services were believed to be operated by a relatively small percentage of public transit agencies. Many agencies that have implemented flexible public transportation services have realized real benefits while others have attempted this approach and abandoned the effort after several months or years. Often, in small urban areas, flexible public transportation services can serve persons with disabilities at a lower cost than demand-responsive service. Also, in suburban communities, a flexible public transportation service with small buses may encourage first-time public transit users to leave their cars at home and use the service to connect with regional transit services to reach nearby destinations. This guide will identify best practices and barriers to effective implementation of flexible pub- lic transportation services. This guide will also move the research into practice by suggesting spe- cific actions that public transit providers can take to more effectively consider and successfully implement flexible public transportation service alternatives. 1.1 History and Definitions Public transportation services have historically operated as fixed-route systems that operate along a well-defined corridor making predetermined stops to collect passengers at scheduled times. These systems are most efficient in areas where there are high concentrations of residences and common destinations, such as a strong downtown or central business district (CBD). More recently, public transportation services have come to include those services that operate as demand responsive, meaning that no fixed route is involved and the vehicle collects passengers at their origins and takes them to their destinations. These demand-responsive systems usually serve specific clientele (e.g., persons with disabilities) and/or areas of low densities. Clearly, fixed- route services are more productive and less costly than demand-responsive systems. Flexible public transportation services encompass a wide range of hybrid service types that are not fully demand responsive or fixed route. According to TCRP Synthesis 53: Operational Expe- riences with Flexible Transit Services (Koffman, 2004), flexible public transportation services have been in existence for over 40 years: At least since the 1960s, practitioners have proposed services that combine features of conventional service and purely demand-responsive service (Cole 1968; Arrillaga and Mouchahoir 1974). One of the earliest documented experiments is the Merrill-Go-Round in Merrill, Wisconsin (Flusberg 1976; Mergel 1976), which used a ‘point deviation’ mode of operation, as defined later in this report, and that is still operating. More recent research continues to propose flexible transit services as part of the toolkit to help transit operators address suburbanization and dispersed travel patterns (Cervero and Beutler 1999; Urbitran 1999) (p. 3). 4 C H A P T E R 1 Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service

For purposes of this study, the definition of flexible public transportation services includes the following: • Route Deviation—vehicles operating on a regular schedule along a well-defined path, with or without marked bus stops, that deviate to serve demand-responsive requests within a zone around the path. The width or extent of the zone may be precisely established or flexible. • Point Deviation—vehicles serving demand-responsive requests within a zone and also serv- ing a limited number of stops within the zone without any regular path between the stops. • Demand-Responsive Connector—vehicles operating in demand-responsive mode within a zone, with one or more scheduled transfer points that connect with a fixed-route network. A high percentage of ridership consists of trips to or from the transfer points. • Request Stops—vehicles operating in conventional fixed-route, fixed-schedule mode and also serving a limited number of undefined stops along the route in response to passenger requests. • Flexible-Route Segments—vehicles operating in conventional fixed-route, fixed-schedule mode, but switching to demand-responsive operation for a limited portion of the route. • Zone Route—vehicles operating in demand-responsive mode along a corridor with estab- lished departure and arrival times at one or more end points. 1.2 Current Status of Flexible Public Transportation Services This research effort involved a comprehensive review and outreach effort to identify flexible public transportation services that have been successfully implemented or are close to being implemented in the United States and Canada. Over 1,100 transit managers, representing pub- lic transit systems of different sizes and types and in different areas of the country, were asked to participate in a web-based initial survey to help the researchers gain a better understanding of the types of agencies that operate flexible public transportation services and those that don’t. The initial survey contained the following questions: • Please provide the contact information on your agency and a contact person that we can reach for follow-up questions. • What modes of public transportation does your agency operate? • If you checked “Flexible Public Transportation” on the previous question, please tell us which type(s) of flexible public transportation your agency operates. • If your agency currently operates or has plans to operate any type of “flexible public trans- portation,” please briefly describe your service. • On what date did you begin operation of flexible public transportation OR if the service has not yet started, what date do you plan to begin operation? • If your agency ever operated “flexible” public transportation and discontinued the service, please briefly describe the type of flexible service operated and the reason for discontinuing the service. The final response rate for the initial survey was approximately 45 percent, with 194 agencies (39 percent) indicating that they operated flexible public transportation service. This is a much higher number than was expected. As shown in Table 1, the profile of the agencies operating flex- ible public transportation service is very similar to the profile of all respondents, including those that do not operate flexible public transportation service. The initial outreach survey also identified the types of flexible public transportation services operated by the agencies. Table 2 shows that route deviation is by far the most common form of flexible public transportation service (63.9 percent), followed by request stops (30.9 percent) and demand-responsive connector (24.2 percent). Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service 5

The initial survey also revealed that the implementation of flexible public transportation ser- vices is on the rise. As shown in Figure 1, a large number of respondents implemented flexible public transportation service after 1991, and the number of new service implementations has been higher still in the past 8 years. The last column on this figure shows those respondents who indicated that they plan to implement flexible public transportation services in the next 5 years. Finally, the initial outreach effort asked respondents if their agencies had ever operated flexi- ble public transportation services and discontinued the service. If discontinuation of flexible public transportation services had occurred, respondents were asked to please briefly describe the type of flexible public transportation service operated and to share the reason for discontin- uing the service. Over 30 respondents shared comments regarding the discontinuation of flexi- ble public transportation services. Some of the reasons given for discontinuing flexible public transportation service were the following: • “Problems with scheduling—can’t make time points when demand for flexible trips is high or have too much extra time when demand for flexible is low.” 6 A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services Modes of Transit Operated All 501 Respondents (%) 194 Respondents Operating Flexible Transit (%) Fixed Route 58.1 57.3 ADA Paratransit 53.4 48.4 General Public Demand Response 55.2 67.2 Client Demand Response 29.6 33. Light Rail 2.7 2.6 Heavy Rail 1.4 0 Bus Rapid Transit 2.5 2.1 Table 1. Operating characteristics of survey respondents. Type of Flexible Public Transportation Service Route Deviation Request Stops Demand-Responsive Connector Point Deviation Flexible Route Segments Zone Routes % of Respondents 63.9 30.9 24.2 16.0 14.4 11.9 Table 2. Types of flexible public transportation services operated. Number of Respondents Before 1980 1981- 1990 1991- 2000 2001- Present Future Service 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 Figure 1. Number of respondents by date of flexible transportation service implementation.

• “Decided not to implement flexible transportation after pilot program in an area of town that had lost a fixed route several years earlier failed to generate sufficient ridership.” • “Replaced flexible service with door-to-door service; ridership increased from two passengers per hour to three and one-half passengers per hour.” • “Flexible transportation service scaled back due to fuel expenses.” • “Low ridership, equipment and resources needed in other areas.” • “Implemented flexible transportation services to salvage Saturday service on two local fixed routes. Discontinued service due to low ridership, communication problems, and confusion about how the service operated.” • “Discontinued flexible service when ridership increased to justify fixed-route service.” In summary, the initial outreach effort revealed the following about flexible public transporta- tion service: • Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated that they operate some form of flexible public transportation service. • While respondents were geographically dispersed across the United States, the largest num- bers of respondents were located in the Southeast and Midwest. • Agencies that operate flexible public transportation service also operate other modes of public transit service at a similar proportion as all respondents. • The largest majority of agencies that operate flexible public transportation service operate route-deviation service, followed by request stops, and demand-responsive connector service. • Implementation of flexible public transportation service has increased significantly in the past 20 years and is still on the increase. • The major reason for discontinuing flexible public transportation services was low ridership. Using the results of the initial outreach effort, a distribution list of public transit service opera- tors was developed to solicit for gathering key information. The second phase of data solicitation was targeted at the 194 agencies that indicated that they operated flexible public transportation service. Survey Respondents Ninety-five agencies (see Appendix A for listing of agencies) responded to the second request for more detailed data on their flexible public transportation services. Of the 95 respondents, 85.3 percent completed the survey, and most answered all of the questions (see Appendix B for survey and summary of responses). As shown in Figure 2, there was a good distribution of agency types among the respondents. Over 30 percent were transit authorities or districts, while 28 percent Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service 7 Figure 2. Distribution of agency types among respondents to second phase of data solicitation.

were private, non-profit. The remaining agencies were primarily city or county departments, with a small number (4 percent) responding that their agency was private, for profit. The respondents served a wide range of service areas and service area populations. The small- est agency served a rural area of 2,000 in population, while the largest agency served a popula- tion of over two million people. The square mileage of the service areas also varied significantly, from 20 square miles to nearly 17,000 square miles. Previous research showed that areas of low density (persons/square mile) were often good candidates for flexible public transportation ser- vice. Clearly, service areas can include a mix of medium-/high-density and low-density areas, but for purposes of this data collection phase, total service area densities were calculated. The results, as shown in Figure 3, were that 34, or nearly 45 percent, of the respondents that provided pop- ulation statistics served areas of relatively low density (less than 100 persons/square mile). Con- versely, only 16 respondents (20 percent) served areas of medium-/high-density (over 1,000 persons per square mile). When asked about basic service statistics for all modes of public transit service, 95 percent of respondents provided data on ridership, vehicle revenue hours, peak vehicles operated, and operating budgets. Figure 4 shows annual ridership while Figure 5 shows peak vehicles for all modes. As shown, the respondents were predominately small agencies. Types of Flexible Public Transportation Service Fewer respondents, 56 percent, provided similar basic service statistics for flexible public trans- portation service only. Six respondents indicated that 100 percent of their service was flexible, so the service statistics reported were reported for all modes. Figure 6 compares annual ridership on 8 A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services Figure 3. Service area population density. Number of Respondents 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 <1 0,0 00 10 ,00 0– 50 ,00 0 50 ,00 0– 10 0,0 00 10 0,0 00 –5 00 ,00 0 1,0 00 ,00 0– 10 ,00 0,0 00 50 0,0 00 –1 ,00 0,0 00 >1 0,0 00 ,00 0 Figure 4. Annual ridership—all modes.

all modes to ridership reported for flexible public transportation service alone. As shown, where ridership was low (less than 50,000 annual trips), flexible public transportation service was pre- dominant. None of the respondents reported flexible ridership exceeding 10,000,001. Figure 7 shows the percentage of total passenger trips that used the flexible public transporta- tion service feature. When asked to describe their flexible public transportation service, 56 percent of respondents reported that the service included route deviation for the general public while 45 percent indi- cated that the service was route deviation for persons with disabilities. The other responses are presented in Table 3. Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service 9 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 <20 21–50 51– 250 251– 500 >500 Number of Respondents Vehicles Figure 5. Peak vehicles—all modes. <10,000 10,000–50,000 50,000–100,000Ri de rs hi p 100,000–500,000 1,000,000–10,000,000 500,000–1,000,000 >10,000,000 Figure 6. Annual ridership on all modes and on flexible public transportation service only. Passenger Trips Using Flexible Public Transportation Figure 7. Percent of passenger trips using the flexible transportation feature.

10 A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services Type of Flexible Public Transportation Service Route Deviation for General Public Route Deviation for Persons with Disabilities Point Deviation Demand-Responsive Connector Request Stops Flexible Route Segments Zone Routes % of Respondents 56.1 45.1 19.5 30.5 30.9 19.5 32.9 Table 3. Types of flexible transportation services operated. Figure 8. Flexible service area types. A large majority of respondents (84.7 percent) indicated that the flexible public transporta- tion service was operated at all times of the day, while only 4.2 percent indicated that the service was only operated at night and 6.9 percent indicated the service was only operated on weekends. It appears that flexible public transportation service is operated in a variety of area types. As shown in Figure 8, most of the respondents indicated that flexible public transportation service was provided in rural areas (36 percent) and small towns (20 percent). However, over 40 percent of respondents indicated that the service was operated in urban and suburban areas also. Flexible Public Transportation Service Users and Productivity of the Service A large majority of respondents indicated that senior citizens (29 percent) and persons with disabilities (27 percent) were the principal users of flexible public transportation service, as shown in Figure 9. When asked about productivity standards for flexible public transportation service, nearly 80 percent of the respondents indicated that they did not have standards. Productivity standards for flexible transportation services, for those respondents that did have them, included the following: • “4 passengers/hour” • “Growth rate in Unit Costs (trip/vehicle mile/change to revenue vehicle hour/etc.)” • “2.3 passengers per revenue hour per contract with the provider” • “Rural route deviated—goal 10 passengers/hour, minimum 5 passengers/hour” • “Ridership comparison, cost per passenger” • “Like to stay over 5.0 passengers/hour” • “Boardings per hour and cost per passenger”

• “At least 20 passengers a day” • “15% farebox ratio, minimum 4.0 passengers/revenue hour” • “3–5 passengers/hour” • “Cost per trip, mile, hour must meet contracted amount and standards for fixed routes” • “Miles per passenger” • “4.00 passengers/vehicle hour and 0.193 passengers/vehicle mile” • “Safe on-time standard” • “3 to 5 boarding per hour minimum” • “Not separately recorded, included with regular passenger count” As the list of productivity standards suggests, most respondents used passengers per hour as their standard, and most agencies reported standards ranging from 3 to 5 passengers per hour. Figure 10 shows the actual passengers per hour productivity measures for the respondents that provided measures. Operation of Flexible Public Transportation Service With respect to how flexible public transportation service is operated, the following questions were asked: • For route deviation service, how far are the vehicles allowed to deviate? • What is the fare for flexible service? Is it different from the fare charged for fixed-route or demand-responsive service? Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service 11 Figure 9. Users of flexible transportation service. Passengers per Hour Number of Respondents Figure 10. Flexible transportation service passengers per hour.

• How is the flexible transportation service scheduled? • How are drivers assigned to flexible transportation service? • What types of vehicles are used to operate flexible transportation service? Distance That Vehicles Are Allowed to Deviate in Route Deviation Service An equal number of respondents, 17 (27 percent), stated that the maximum deviation from the route was up to one-half mile and that there was no limit for deviation within the agencies’ service area. Fourteen respondents (22 percent) allowed deviation up to three-quarters of a mile from the route, the distance required by the ADA to provide complementary paratransit service. Figure 11 displays these results. Fares for Flexible, Fixed-Route, and Demand-Responsive Services Seventy percent of respondents indicated that the fare charged for flexible public transporta- tion service was the same as the fare charged for fixed-route or demand-responsive service. Of the respondents that charge a different fare for flexible public transportation service, 61 percent said that the fare for flexible public transportation service was higher. Scheduling of Flexible Transportation Service Respondents who operated route deviation were asked to complete a statement about route deviation (“For route deviation service, a complete route is scheduled . . .”) with one of three phrases. The completing phrases and the percentage that chose each one are the following: • With a limited number of short deviations to known locations—44% • With time for deviations to unspecified locations, but only within short portions of the route—17% • With time for deviations throughout the route to unspecified locations—35% Respondents who operated point deviation, zone routes, or demand-responsive connector service were also asked how they scheduled their service. The top responses and the percentage that chose them were the following: • A few time points are scheduled with most of the time available for deviations—64% • With time for deviations to unspecified locations, but only within short portions of the route—28% Assignment of Drivers to Flexible Transportation Service Following is some information on drivers who operate flexible public transportation service— including type of employee, process by which drivers are selected for flexible routes, and any spe- cial training provided—and the percentage of respondents that selected the characteristic to describe their drivers. 12 A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services Route Deviation Limit Figure 11. Maximum deviation from route.

The types of drivers and the percentage of respondents using each type for flexible transportation services were the following: • Full time—88.3% • Part time—79.2% • Volunteer—9.1% • Union member—27.3% • Contract employee—22.1% The processes by which drivers were selected for flexible routes and the percentage of respondents using each selection process for flexible transportation services were the following: • Assigned to flexible service by agency—52.1% • Bid process, based on seniority—35.2% • Bid process, with special training requirement—9.9% • Driver volunteers for flexible assignments—9.9% Types of special training provided for drivers, if any, and the percentage of respondents providing different types of special training for drivers (or no special training) were the following: • No special training—19.7% • Map reading skills training—31.8% • Familiarization with area served—83.3% • Technology training (e.g., to use mobile data terminals)—24.2% Types of Vehicles Used to Operate Flexible Transportation Service Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) used small body-on-chassis buses, while 28 percent used vans to operate flexible public transportation service. The mix of vehicles most used is shown in Figure 12. Communication Strategies Used for Flexible Public Transportation Service Communication is a key element of flexible public transportation services. Passengers are usu- ally required to make advance reservations or place requests for pick-ups and drop-offs. Major issues include the following: • Who do passengers call and how far in advance must they place the request? • If requests are made to a dispatcher, how is the driver notified? • Does the agency negotiate with passengers for convenient pick-up or drop-off locations? • Do agencies coordinate flexible transportation services with other transportation services, if applicable? Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service 13 Figure 12. Types of vehicles used to operate flexible public transportation services.

Requesting Flexible Public Transportation Service Exactly 50 percent of respondents said that passengers using flexible public transportation service could be picked up without a called-in request or prior reservation at any established stop along a route. Nearly 40 percent said that the passenger must make prior arrangements. Over 60 percent of respondents said that passengers using flexible public transportation service could be dropped off without a called-in request or prior reservation at any established stop along a route. Nearly 30 percent said that passengers must make prior arrangements, and approximately the same percentage of respondents stated that passengers could be dropped off at a limited number of designated locations without making prior arrangements. Table 4 shows these results. Most respondents, 55.2 percent, require previous day advance notice for flexible pick-ups, while a total of 37 percent of respondents allow passengers to call within 2 hours or less to request a flexible pick-up. Passengers appear to be offered multiple ways to request a flexible pick-up, as shown in Figure 13. A large majority of respondents, 68.4 percent, have passengers call the dis- patcher or reservation agent, while a limited number of respondents, 14 percent, allow passen- gers to call the driver directly. Notifying Drivers of Flexible Public Transportation Service Requests As shown above, most of the respondents require passengers to contact a dispatcher or reser- vation agent to make the request for a flexible public transportation service pick-up. Since many agencies allow for the request to be made within 2 hours of the desired pick-up, it is critical that the agency be able to communicate with the driver. As shown in Figure 14, a large majority of respondents rely on radio communications with drivers, while others use cell phones, and a small number use mobile data terminals (MDTs). Negotiation with Passengers for Convenient Pick-Up or Drop-Off Locations Respondents were very evenly split on whether they negotiated with passengers for con- venient pick-up or drop-off locations that are off the main route but not at the actual origin 14 A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services Can Passengers Use Flexible Public Transportation Service Without Making Prior Arrangements? Flexible Pick-Up (%) Flexible Drop-Off (%) No 39.5 27.8 Yes, at any established stop along a route 50.0 65.3 Yes, at a fixed-route transfer location 22.4 18.1 Yes, at a limited number of stops 14.5 26.4 Table 4. Requirement for prior arrangements. Methods for Requesting Pick-up Figure 13. Distribution among respondents of methods for requesting a flexible pick-up.

or destination of the passenger. Finally, with respect to communication, a large majority of respondents, 89 percent, who operated both flexible public transportation service and fixed-route or demand-responsive transportation services reported that they coordinated the services. Coordinating Flexible Transportation Services with Other Transportation Services When asked to describe how they coordinated flexible public transportation and other ser- vices, respondents indicated that the flexible public transportation services made it easier for pas- sengers to transfer to other routes and coordinate with other transit operators in surrounding areas, including intercity bus and rail service. Several respondents indicated that they served sen- ior centers or nursing homes, reducing the demand on complementary ADA paratransit service. In many locations, the purpose of flexible public transportation was to coordinate with other services. In these areas, the respondents indicated that rather than serve specific destinations, their flexible public transportation services acted as feeder service into major fixed-route ser- vices, including light or heavy rail lines. Other Considerations for Flexible Public Transportation Service Many other factors affect the successful operation of flexible public transportation service. To gain added insight, respondents were asked the following: • What technologies are used for flexible public transportation service? • What reasons motivated you to operate flexible public transportation service? • What is the best way to promote flexible public transportation to the public? • What advice would you offer other agencies that are considering implementing flexible pub- lic transportation services? Technologies Used for Flexible Public Transportation Service Most respondents reported more than one type of technology used for flexible public trans- portation services. Over 55 percent of respondents identified voice radio as the most frequently used technology for flexible public transportation services (see Figure 15). Many respondents provided more than one response to this question. In addition to voice radio, 50 percent indi- cated that they used computerized scheduling, while 38 percent stated that they used cellular phones. A much smaller number, 18 percent, used automated vehicle locators (AVL) or global positioning systems (GPS), and only 8 percent indicated that they utilized the Internet (web) for their flexible public transportation services. Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service 15 Driver Notification Methods Figure 14. Distribution among respondents of methods by which a dispatcher notifies a driver of flexible requests.

Reasons to Operate Flexible Public Transportation Service When asked what motivated the agency to operate flexible public transportation service, over 70 percent stated that they were responding to community preferences and geography. Other responses are shown in Table 5. Promoting Flexible Public Transportation to the Public Survey respondents used a combination of methods to promote flexible public transportation service to the public as shown in Figure 16. Advice for Agencies Considering Implementing Flexible Public Transportation Services Respondents were very generous when asked to share advice with other agencies that were considering implementing flexible public transportation service. Some respondents suggested that agencies should understand the community to be served and set expectations and service design to match. Others suggested that agencies should start slowly, advertise heavily, and be 16 A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services Radio 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 55% 50% 38% 18% 8% Number of Respondents Computer Cellular Flexible Public Transportation Technologies AVL/GPS Web Figure 15. Technologies used for flexible public transportation service. What Motivated Your Agency to Operate Flexible Services? Respondents (%) Respond to community preferences and geography 71.1 Provide coverage to a large, low-density area 60.5 Balance customer access and routing efficiency 42.1 Reduce/eliminate the expense of separate ADA complementary paratransit 32.9 Lay the groundwork for future fixed-route transit 19.7 Serve low demand times 17.1 Table 5. Reasons for operating flexible public transportation services. Promotional Method Figure 16. Methods for promoting flexible public transportation.

realistic. Some respondents recommended making sure that agency staff, especially drivers, understand the service, are trained properly, and are willing to be patient and listen to passen- gers. Other respondents focused on understanding the costs associated with operating flexible public transportation services. Respondent comments ranged from topics such as the potential cost savings of flexible public transportation service in comparison to complementary ADA paratransit service, to the fact that flexible public transportation service costs more than tradi- tional fixed-route bus service. In summary, the survey revealed the following key findings about flexible public transporta- tion service: • Most respondents were public agencies, but nearly one-third were private, non-profit entities. • Most agencies were small and served areas of low density. • In agencies that operated other modes of service, flexible public transportation service repre- sented a small proportion of total trips. • Route deviation is the most common type of flexible public transportation service. • Most agencies operate flexible public transportation service in rural areas, small towns, and suburban areas. • Senior citizens and persons with disabilities are the most frequent rider types. • Productivity as measured by passengers per hour averaged 4 passengers per hour. • Most agencies limit the distance that buses can deviate from the route for flexible public trans- portation trips; however, nearly 40 percent have no limits or informal limits. • Most agencies do not charge a premium fare for flexible public transportation. • Flexible public transportation drivers do not receive additional skills training. • Most agencies use small body-on-chassis buses for flexible public transportation service. • Most agencies require previous-day, advance notice to arrange flexible public transportation service pick-ups. • Passengers most frequently call a reservation agent or dispatcher to make a request. • Voice radios are the most common method of contacting drivers. • Most agencies coordinate flexible public transportation service with other services, if applicable. • The use of technology to implement flexible public transportation services is limited. • Most agencies implemented flexible public transportation service in response to community needs. • Agencies often promote flexible public transportation service through a variety of means, including community presentations and on agency websites. Using the results of the initial survey of public transit agencies, the following factors were considered important in identifying current flexible public transportation service agencies for further study: • Geography—agencies selected from all regions of the United States. • Agency Type and Size—studied both public and non-profit agencies. • Density—selected agencies that serve both high- and low-density areas. • Area Served by Flexible Service—agencies that served urban, rural, or suburban areas. • Type of Flexible Public Transportation Service Operated. • Participation in TCRP Synthesis 53: Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services. The results of the detailed case studies presented in Chapter 4, along with the survey results, formed the basis for the framework and decision matrix described in Chapter 2. Table 6 shows the agencies studied, primary types of flexible public transportation service provided, areas served by the flexible public transportation services, and population densities of the areas served by flexible public transportation services. Basic Concepts of Flexible Public Transportation Service 17

18 A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services Agency Name State Primary Type(s) of Flexible Public Transportation Service Area Served Population Densities (For Flexible Services) South Central Adult Services Council, Inc. (South Central Adult Services) ND Route Deviation, Zone Routes, Demand-Responsive Connector Rural 5 per square mile Mountain Rides Transportation Authority (Mountain Rides)* ID Request Stops Rural 7 per square mile Mason County Transportation Authority WA Route Deviation, Zone Routes, Request Stops Rural 51 per square mile Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) SC Zone Routes Urban 997 per square mile Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) FL Route Deviation, Demand- Responsive Connector Urban and Suburban 1,000 per square mile Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC)/Omniride VA Route Deviation Suburban 1,180 per square mile City of St. Joseph MO Route Deviation, Request Stops Small Urban 1,688 per square mile Omnitrans CA Zone Routes, Demand- Responsive Connector Suburban 1,600–1,796 per square mile Pierce Transit WA Route Deviation, Request Stops Suburban 1,800 per square mile Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) CO Point Deviation, Demand- Responsive Connector Suburban 1,800 per square mile * Route deviation service discontinued October, 2008. Information provided for purposes of describing barriers of providing flexible transportation services in a rural community. Table 6. TCRP Project B-35 participating agencies.

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 140: A Guide for Planning and Operating Flexible Public Transportation Services explores the types of flexible transportation service strategies that are potentially appropriate for small, medium, and large urban and rural transit agencies. The guide examines financial and political realities, operational issues, and institutional mechanisms related to implementing and sustaining flexible transportation services.

The following appendixes are available online:

Appendix A: Flexible Public Transportation Survey Respondents

Appendix B: Summary of Flexible Public Transportation Survey Responses

Appendix C: Flexible Public Transportation Services Website Information is available as an ISO image. Instructions for burning a CD-ROM from an ISO image are provided below.

Help on Burning an .ISO CD-ROM Image

(Warning: This is a large and may take some time to download using a high-speed connection.)

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